Maryland’s General Assembly can improve the state’s government transparency standards by voting for a state senator’s proposal to create a public information compliance board.
Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) is chief sponsor of legislation setting up the compliance board and dishing out penalties when records are withheld or access to them is delayed.
Although the state’s Public Information Act is intended to give the public access to state and local government records, too often release of the information is delayed. In some cases, agencies charge exorbitant per-page fees to gather and copy public records, in a blatant attempt to discourage the public from requesting information.
Raskin’s bill, SB 695, has the backing of a number of advocacy groups and non-profit organizations, as well as the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, of which the Cumberland Times-News is a member.
The proposed State Public Information Act Compliance Board would be comprised of three members, including at least one Maryland Bar attorney and one non-governmental representative from a Maryland non-profit group.
The compliance board would have enough muscle to ensure compliance. If public records are not released within the permitted 30-day window, the board could levy a fine of $100 per day and also award statutory damages of $1,000.
We all have a vested interest in state and local government decisions. The public’s confidence about transparency can only be as strong as the state’s commitment to compliance.